Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Think This Has a Point--At Least When I Thought About It at Denny's This Afternoon It Seemed To

In late 1958 I had just gotten out of the service and scored the very first job I had ever had in my life as counter sales in the camera department of a Federated department store in Wichita Falls. Either the second or third month that I was there the store manager came by and asked me to come in an hour early the next day for the department manager’s monthly meeting. I said that I would and of course I did. The following month there was no invitation so I did not attend. The store manager came by and asked me why I wasn’t there. I told him that I had not been invited. That is when I was informed that I was the Camera Department Manager. Not a lot of fanfare, just a you’re it kid.

Needless to say, I thought that I was pretty tough stuff. The first job that I had ever had in my life and within three months I was management. Boy, am I one smooth cookie or what. Of course, there was no mention of a managerial salary, just the requirement that I come in one day each month an hour earlier. That is also when I learned my first life lesson about business which kinda burst that bubble. Manager’s did not get paid overtime for the meeting and I later learned that they did not get paid for two extra days of inventory. That made me think that rather than tough stuff the country bumpkin had just been snookered by the city slicker.

I stayed with Federated for a year or so and then took a job with a discount store as Camera Department Manager. At least they were up front about the job title. A couple of years later I left that job to take a clerical job with the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway.

In the decade of the sixties I had three jobs. Two of them I worked six years and one of them I worked for four years. After I went to the FW&D I continued working at the discount store on Thursday nights and Saturdays until I started working those nights part time at the only camera store in WF. My passion was cameras and as much as I loved and still love trains the camera’s won out. Besides that I’m just not a union person.

The railroad abolished my job but because of the union contract they had to pay me for eight hours each day, so be sure they found something for me to do for eight hours. Usually it meant that I just followed someone else around while they actually did a job and sometimes it meant that the person that was supposed to actually do a job found an empty caboose and took a nap while I did the job. It was a situation that did not set well with me and my Emerson upbringing. One day I got POed and told them what they could do with their railroad, walked downtown and asked the camera store to put me on full time which they did. If my marital problems had not already been in full swing that would have given it a considerable jump start—there was quite a loss in income which was duly noted and frequently mentioned from then on.

So from late 1958 until late 1970 with the exception of the time when I was on the job for the railroad I was working behind the camera counter in WF. I have sold a Polaroid to a person that was totally blind and taught him how to load it. I have been requested to remove the negatives from a Polaroid because the owner had been taking pictures for a couple of years and was only getting the positives and they needed the negatives for reprints. I knew when the lady whose husband struck it rich during the oil boom came in for us to put Plus-X color film in her Tampax camera to load her Pentax with Ektachrome 64. I have been kissed on the mouth by a Captain in the U S Airforce and I have totally ruined one families Christmas because on Christmas Eve I sold the wife Photo BEPs for their movie light bar rather than Photofloods according to her very red faced and irate husband. And I might mention I had done all with a straight face and without enbarassement to the customer. I had an excellent mentor in the form of the store owner even though he would never tell me what to do because it had been his wife that hired me and all communication between him and me always passed through her even when we were in the same room. He passed away about the same time we sold our house in WF for the move to Houston. I postponed the move and took out a year’s lease on an apartment so that she would have time to train someone to take my place.

In late 1970 I left Wichita Falls to make my way in the big city. I had the money from the house sale so my grand plan was to take a month off and scout out the camera positions. Actually since almost all of the manufacturer’s reps that called on WF also called on the Houston camera stores I had done considerable research and had pretty much selected the one where I wanted to work, Southside Camera near Bellaire where I planned to purchase a house. At the time Houston had three outstanding professional camera stores. Southside, Skylark which was in Pasadena where my wife’s older brother lived and thus was not even under the remotest consideration, and Southwestern. The word on Southwestern was that they did not hire off the street but rather recruited their people so that seemed a long shot. 

A week or so after we had moved into our apartment I saw an ad from an employment agency for camera sales. I thought what to heck, went in and filled out all the forms. Truthfully I expected the phone to be ringing off the hook before I got back to the apartment. I use to be pretty taken with myself—okay, so I still am. The phone was not ringing when I returned home, I waited a day, two days, three days, a week and I heard nothing from the agency--still haven't heard from that agency. I had been pretty big stuff in the photographic world in WF; trusted employee of the only camera store in town, camera club officer, photography instructor at the Boys Club and generally highly respected solver of photographic problems. I fully expected Houston to recognize such accomplishments and to be duly impressed. But there were a few more people in Houston and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the competition was a little stiffer here. Abject fear struck.

The month wasn’t up but the next morning found me decked out in my Sunday best heading for the closest employment agency. At the first one the guy picked up the phone and got me an interview at Southwestern for that afternoon. Well, Southwestern was downtown and I wanted to work in Bellaire so I made a flying trip to Southside on the way to Southwestern. 

No one has ever blown a job interview any worse than I blew the interview at Southside. I was still functioning under fear and I stuttered, stammered and fidgeted. I am surprised that I could remember my name. I even had a difficult time explaining what the H I was doing there. When I walked out the door I knew for certain that I was not going to be working at Southside even as a janitor. From the word on the streets Southwestern seemed a distant long shot. I knew I had about twenty minutes to pull myself together before I arrived.

This story has a point but getting there is going to require much more than anyone would ever want to know of my life story in one setting so it will be continued…it’s getting sorta like the Perils of Pauline at the Saturday matinee…

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